Late bloomers…what kind of flower is this?!

a new painting

a new painting for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

There was a segment on the program, Sunday Morning, yesterday that brought me to tears. It was entitled “Late Bloomers” and as Jack and I watched it, we both were filled with deep emotion. For me it felt like hope and an affirmation that life is truly meant to keep expanding, as we ourselves are.

For many years, I’d believed that the depth of our talents and creative abilities would surface and grow as we aged. It seemed like evidence of this was rare, but I still felt it, and it seemed to be connected to the way we perceived youth and beauty. I even wrote a paper about this, over 20 years ago, when I was a student at Harvard Divinity School. But at the same time, I was experiencing a huge inner struggle as I felt I’d lost my youthful appearance. I was 35 at the time.

When I was younger, I was obsessed with looking good and gaining the attention of the opposite sex….and I got quite a lot of it, but that began to change in my late 30’s and with that decline in attention, I experienced disorientation and a questioning of my value. “If I couldn’t attract a man, what good was I?”, was a question that, even though I don’t like admitting it, consumed a lot of my time.

Much of my creativity went into keeping my body in shape and trying to maintain a youthful appearance, and I felt there was a war of sorts going on inside as deeper and more meaningful parts of me were emerging and begging for some “air time”. I was fighting becoming “old”. I didn’t want to be unattractive (and as un-politically correct as that sounds, it was my belief that old was not pretty, at all) and did not believe that my inner self, talents, and abilities, were as attractive as my outer shell, which was now, to my horror, slipping away; sagging, bagging wrinkling, bulging, and greying.

But some part of me also hoped that there was something inside beyond my looks, something which was rich and wonderful and that glimmer of belief was like a golden thread that led me through a very necessary change from focusing on my outer self to allowing my inner self to emerge…and I like it…a lot.

Focusing on the body can become an unhealthy obsession, whether it is on our beauty, or even on our “health”. Eat right, exercise, sleep, do yoga, take the right vitamins, drink plenty of water…all of these things that we are told are “good” for us, can also make us to forget that we are so much more than bodies. How many times do we ask someone, “How are you?” and the answer is about health, the state of their physical bodies, or the “health” of one of their family members. Few people think to say, “I am a wonder!” or “I am opening up in a way that is delightful!”, in response to that question.

But it is a good question. How about answering, “I am growing, I am expanding, I am becoming aware of new thoughts and revelations that have only just been revealed to me.” We are more than our bodies, but where we focus is where we will be led. I want to honor my body but not worship it or make a Herculean effort to preserve it and prevent it from changing. I hope to hold it lovingly, let it go its way, and keep my focus on what I want to experience more of in this life: love, happiness, creativity, and the sense of wonder that comes with change and growth which is what this life is all about.

“When your ideas about yourself change, so does your experience.” Seth, from The Nature of Personal Reality

P.S. My ideas of beauty and youth have also changed as I have come, more and more to accept myself. I look at Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and think , “I love the way that those women live and look!” and this is, to me, a sign of my own growth.

walking blindly on the path..trusting the next step will be there if I don’t turn back

"ADVENTURE" for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

A new painting for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

I attended a workshop at the Highlights Foundation this past weekend. I’d originally signed up for it on what felt like a whim since I had never seriously considered writing children’s books, but something felt right about it. Part of my mind had already decided that this must be the Divine’s way of opening up a new path for me. “Maybe I’m meant to be a children’s book writer”, I thought. I liked the sound of that.

Then people who I’d told about the workshop suggested I think about illustrating as well and I was not as open to this idea, even arguing, “Illustrators have a different style than I do, I cannot see myself doing that…” I had a lot of reasons why this wouldn’t work for me but the week before the workshop, one of the faculty was looking at my website and emailed me asking if I’d like to speak with the Creative Director of Highlights while I was there. WOW, I thought, she must see something that she likes in my art. Maybe I am meant to be an illustrator too! OK.

I arrived at the workshop with two new paths beginning to stretch out in front of me. Since the paintings that I do are on wood, I had brought with me a large, heavy, canvas, bag with about 7 of them to show when the time was right. After everyone gathered, I spotted the faculty member who’d contacted me about my painting, talking with some of the other participants. I was sure she’d say something to me like, “Hello Mary, did you bring your artwork? I cannot wait to see it!” or some other equally enthusiastic response. But she did not seek me out. I waited, mingled, tried to not be over-anxious about “my work”, tried to remember that there were lots of people there too, but I started to feel deflated.

I finally introduced myself and she was very nice, informed me about the meeting she’d set up for me the next day, but said nothing about my art. I went to bed on Friday night with a mixture of anticipation, hope, and discouragement, all vying for my attention. It was a huge challenge tying to keep my mind from going to the scenario of seeing my work scrutinized with a pleasant, polite, and slightly uninterested, response the next day.

I knew what I had done. I’d planned a future and it didn’t appear to be working out the way that I’d imagined it, and now my over-tired, over-anxious, mind was scrambling for some sort of firm footing, even if that firm footing was not happy ground. The thought, “This was too good to be true”, was something I’d experienced before, and I felt like I was heading there again. Truly, a part of me wanted to run away; take my toys and go home, or take some drug and fall asleep so I could get relief….but I knew better…and in times like this, I just barely know better. All of the depressing and discouraging paths that seemed to be beckoning to me looked like little life rafts saying, “Take me. This way is easier. It might not be too exciting, but at least you’ll be safe.” But I didn’t want “safety” if it meant going backward and I knew this deep down. I just didn’t know where to go.

I also “knew” that the only problem was what my mind was telling me. I “knew” that I had the ability to change my gloomy, pessimistic thoughts, but I didn’t, in that moment, feel the truth of this. In that moment, I had to rely on what I know are spiritual truths: There is no problem unless I think there is one, everything is unfolding perfectly, and help is always available.

I decided to re-read the response from an email that I’d sent a friend earlier in the day. This woman is not only supportive emotionally, but she also loves my work. She articulated what it was about my painting and writing that made a difference to her, and her words “reminded” me of why I do what I do…And I began to say, to myself, alone in my little writing cabin, “This is happening for me….stay open…this is happening for me….trust…stay open…this is happening for me…”  and I fell asleep.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I felt like a new person. I still didn’t know how the day would unfold, if the Creative Director would have any positive to say about my artwork or not, but I had refocused. Meeting with the other writers and illustrators at breakfast that morning was a very different experience from the night before. I began to feel like I was on an adventure and when it came time to have my meeting with the Creative Director at 3 p.m. I was ready.

I pulled out my paintings and waited. The first word out of her mouth was, “Stunning!’

A flood of goosebumps shot through me. The next 15 minutes flew by. She offered some suggestions, not about how to change or improve my art, but about stepping into being an artist in a larger way. She pulled up the website of a very well-known artist who is pretty “out there” and said something like, “Why not consider a direction like this? You’re good enough.”

I was laughing inside when I left that meeting. A part of me was saying, “Well, you didn’t expect THAT did you, Mary?” No, I certainly did not. And now a new path has, indeed, opened up but I am not going to make it into a “career path” by over-thinking, over-planning, and trying to tweak it into a vision that makes sense to me. I am going to continue to trust that I will be shown, step by step, moment by moment, what to do. I am being called to trust in the larger part of me in a new way. I am ready.

“Security is mostly a superstition…Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing”. Helen Keller

 

 

 

All are welcomed here

our backyard with some welcomed guests enjoyi

our backyard with some welcomed guests enjoying their breakfast…we don’t have bird feeders, we just spread seeds and vegetables on the ground and watch in delight as an assortment of  critters show up

I used to dislike squirrels and be quite afraid of them. One day, my cousin reminded me that when we were little girls, a squirrel bit me. I then understood my feelings…but that didn’t change how I felt about squirrels; I still professed to dislike them, cringed when I talked about them, and told others the reason for my feelings. “My story” about squirrels became one of drama and past trauma. I’m not sure how interesting it was, but I liked to tell it.

One day, I realized what a foolish thing this was and decided to change. Why dislike a being who is such a part of my world and landscape? Why have a trauma story that doesn’t in any way serve me? Why “get a kick” out of having a phobia and shiver when someone mentioned squirrels, just to get attention? Suddenly, it seemed really dumb and so I changed it/me. I began to say that I liked squirrels and I began to like them….just like that.

There is so much talk about trying to understand our negative pasts so we can get free of them, but I don’t believe that this is necessary…..or even true. Sometimes finding out why we react the way that we do just makes our present, restricted, situation even more “legitimate”.  If I want to “argue for my limitations” I can do that and I can hold onto my trauma stories and keep myself from changing and growing.  If I truly want to be free of the negative past (or my conception of a negative past) then I can be, and I will open myself up to new ways of seeing, feeling and experiencing the world…and I will welcome all Life into my life.

 

 

A new perspective

A new friend to our yard (happily eating the carrots I put out today)

A new friend to our yard (happily eating the carrots I put out today)

One of the areas that Jack and I had the most conflict around was money. It seemed like every time we got into an argument, each of us was trying to convince the other how much we did and how underappreciated we felt. These arguments usually began as fairly reasonable discussions but soon deteriorated into, “I do this, this and this…and you never seem to notice or think that it is a big deal”, pissing contests…and nothing ever changed.

One day, we sat down together, looked at this unhappy pattern, and made a decision do something about it. We decided to tell each other what we noticed and appreciated about what the other one did without interjecting what we did. It was a challenge. At one point I felt like I was sitting in class, wiggling in my seat, with my hand raised, saying, “I also do this, this, and this, too..!” I wanted to be appreciated for the things that I thought were important so much so, that I almost wasn’t listening to Jack tell me about the things that he appreciated about me. He noticed the same pattern within himself.

We decided to make room for the, ” I want to tell you what I don’t think you are noticing about what I do and I am dying to tell you!” at the end of the “exercise”, but for the moment, we were only to tell and listen, to each other. At the end of this we both agreed that it had been the best discussion we’d ever had around money. But it went beyond money. Later in the day I thought about some of the things that I appreciated about Jack, and felt so much inner happiness. Is there any feeling more divine than genuine gratitude? A surprise feeling also popped up; I felt a new love and appreciation for myself.

When I was feeling unappreciated, angry, and resentful, those feelings informed my life…especially around money.  When I really let myself feel appreciation for Jack and for what he did, the feelings naturally spread out to me and my life…especially, but not exclusively around, money.

When I look for what someone (including myself) did wrong in the past, that is what I will see in their (and my) present.

To look backward for the source of current problems can lead you into the habit of seeking only negative episodes from your past, and prevent you from experiencing it as a source of pleasure, accomplishment, or success.” From the book by Jane Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality.

 

bunnies are in my life in a new way these days!

bunnies are in my life in a new way these days!…one of my new paintings

 

A new visitor to our backyard

another new visitor to our backyard

The entrance to the shrine

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A new painting of mine that can be seen on MY ARTWORK PAGE

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about limiting beliefs and how so often we just accept them as “REALITY”. Several years ago, I began to experience an effect of my thinking, that I didn’t think was the result of my thinking. It involved the work that I do as a spiritual counselor. I found that a number of clients were either reluctant, or forgot, to pay me. Some said they would and never did, others paid me less than my hourly rate, and still others intimated that it wasn’t spiritual to charge for the work that I did.

This was quite distressing for me, and I began to try to figure out how to deal with it. I decided that I needed to be clearer about expecting payment, and went about formulating a “spiel” that I’d give before each session. Nothing changed. In my frustration at “them” I finally hit my head against my own belief: I struggled with my worth and value as a spiritual counselor. A part of me didn’t feel as though I deserved payment. What I did as “work” seemed so natural to me, that I placed very little value on it, and so this belief was beautifully (I can tell you it didn’t feel beautiful at the time) reflected back to me in the attitude of some of my clients regarding our financial agreement.

It may sound unbelievable to say that once I recognized this, everything changed, but it did. Clients who had not paid in the past began to pay ahead of time. Some people even gave me more than my rate. The “problem” disappeared overnight.

The world, my world, shows me who I am/what I am thinking and believing….always. My “struggles” always arise to show me how I’m limiting myself. Once I see that my thinking (even if the whole world seems to believe the opposite) is the only thing blocking me, I become free….and things on the outside change to reflect this.

Some of my thoughts of freedom are: everything that I need (and desire at my deepest level) is provided, there is nothing to fear, there are no problems, life is Good, God/Spirit is within me and everything seen and unseen, all is unfolding perfectly….

If you’d like to comment with some of your favorite freedom thoughts, or thoughts that remind you of who you truly are, please do!

“When we fight with our failing we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure, on the side of good.” From David Whyte’s, The Faces at Braga

This entry was posted on February 24, 2015. 11 Comments

Life without limits (at least in our minds)

Grocery shopping with one of my favorite human beings!

Grocery shopping with one of my favorite human beings!

Many years ago, someone recommended to me the teachings of Seth*as important spiritual information. I can’t remember if I was given a tape, or how I first heard this “being” speaking through the voice of Jane Roberts, but I was immediately (and almost violently) turned off. It would be years before I stumbled across Seth again but this time, I was riveted, enthralled, and couldn’t get enough of what once seemed like rubbish.

I also began to notice a pattern within myself. I’d had the same strong negative reaction when I first heard Eckhart Tolle, Esther Hicks (who had herself gone to hear Jane Roberts speak, and years later began doing the same work which she calls the teachings of “Abraham”), and countless books which at first reading, I couldn’t understand, but criticized anyway. In the 1990’s, I briefly dated a man who used to say, “We are all gods” and I thought he was a blasphemous idiot. There’s a scripture in the New Testament which basically says, “God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise”**.

I love to turn on the radio and catch the teaching of Joyce Meyer. I don’t agree with much of her theology or social/political points of view, but she has a consistent and uplifting message about living life to the fullest and I appreciate her as much as I do the teachings of Alan Watts, Neville Goddard, William Blake, Seth, Edgar Cayce, Norman Vincent Peale, Abraham, Thich Nhat Hanh….the list of places where I find spiritual sustenance are limitless…when I have an open mind.

So back to my initial negative reactions to these teachers. I see that I was afraid that my view of reality would being challenged. Afraid that if I opened myself up to these ideas, I would be in danger somehow…and in a way, that was the truth. Every time my ego gets challenged and proven wrong (or at least is seen as limited) it is like a little death of the old self. I now know myself enough to recognize this pattern. It’s a good thing to be aware of our self-protective reactions when the “self” that we think we are protecting is just a limiting belief.

 

 

* Seth is the internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher who spoke through the author Jane Roberts while she was in trance, and coined the phrase “You Create Your Own Reality.” Seth’s empowering message literally launched the New Age movement. (taken from the website http://www.sethlearningcenter.org)

** 1 Corinthians 1:27